Accelerated climb for the improving all-rounder

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He’s been in the ‘one to watch’ category for a while but now Ollie Stone is being given the opportunity to show just why is he is so highly regarded.

The 18-year-old all-rounder made his first-class bow at Headingley this week, taking the next step on what has been a rapid rise to prominence.

Just two years ago, Stone was unable to bowl for nearly a whole season after suffering from a stress fracture of the back but his improvement since returning to the fray has been nothing short of remarkable and it shows no sign of slowing.

And one person who has witnessed Stone’s rise is Northamptonshire performance coach Phil Rowe.

“He’s been on our radar since the age of 13 which is when I first saw him,” Rowe said.

“He’s from Norfolk and he came to our attention through the schemes we have with some of the minor counties and it was immediately apparent that he could bowl.

“We put him on to our academy when he was 15 and he’s always swung the ball while bowling at a pretty decent pace.”

There are certainly worse points from which to start but, as is the case with a fair number of youngsters, the body often can’t do what is asked of it.

This was the case with Stone but Rowe believes that his enforced absence has proved beneficial in the long run.

He continued: “It was a blessing in disguise really.

“He’d had issues with his bowling action and it was a result of that and probably becasue of a heavy volume through the previous winter that he was injured.

“We spent the time between September 2010 and February 2011 remodelling his action and he came back a lot stronger with a vastly improved action and he hasn’t missed a game since.”

It was evident last season, certainly from the time I spent at the other end when Northampton Saints faced the NCCC Academy at Campbell Park, that Stone had put on a good yard of pace and this is an area where Rowe thinks his development is the most apparent.

“He’s got very good pace and he’s up there with the quickest in league cricket pace-wise,” he added.

“It might not be quick by first-class standards but there is the potential there for him to add another bit without losing the ability with his control.”

Whether Stone has the goods to excel at professinal level is yet to be seen, but Rowe is in no doubt that, if his career continues to move in the same direction, his name we will be seeing a lot more of.

He said: “His development has accelerated over the past two years to the point where he has now overtaken some others who were ahead of him.

“He’s a lovely lad who is very good to work with, he’s a good all-round fielder and he can hold a bat as well.

“He’s aslo in the 30-man England Under-19 squad for the upcoming World Cup so he’s being noticed.

“He’s ready to play at first-team level and he’s more than capable of doing very well.”